Shipments of femtocells, also referred to as indoor small cells, are picking up more than previously expected due to planned deployments by AT&T (NYSE:T), Sprint (NYSE:S), Softbank, Telefonica and Vodafone, according to ABI Research.
One year ago, ABI reported that operators were sitting on stacks of femtocell inventory that was slow to budge, but it predicted the market would pick up from 2013 onwards once large operators began refreshing their inventories. ABI now expects shipments of enterprise and consumer femtocells will reach 3.8 million units this year, growing to 5.7 million units in 2014.
Helping drive this uptick is AT&T's Project Velocity (or VIP), announced last November. As part of the effort, AT&T intends to deploy more than 40,000 small cells, both indoors and outdoors, through 2014. The company has updated much of its network to accommodate deployment of HSPA+ metrocells around the country but has said the rollout of more advanced multi-standard metrocells will have to wait till 2014.
"While 3G indoor small cells will continue to represent the vast majority of shipments, it is LTE indoor small cells which are expected to ramp up significantly starting in 2013," said ABI.
Earlier this year, Infonetics Research also predicted strong femtocell shipments this year, driven by strong 3G femto sales and fast-ramping 4G femtocells. The firm predicted 4G femtocell revenue will expand at a 165 percent 5-year compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2017.
Regarding outdoor small cells, ABI is forecasting shipments will exhibit year-on-year unit growth of 125 percent during 2014, reaching a value of almost $3.6 billion. The firm noted shipments of LTE outdoor small cells will be driven by operators such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and China Mobile.
Further, ABI predicts that the number of carrier Wi-Fi access points shipped during 2014 will be three times the number shipped during 2012.
- see this ABI release
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